Raila Odinga declares legal battle to nullify William Ruto’s election win

Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga

Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga (right) who on August 16, 2022 signalled a Supreme Court battle to determine the legality of the outcome of the presidential vote after he rejected the results that saw the declaration of Dr William Ruto as President-elect.

Photo credit: Tony Karumba | AFP

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party presidential candidate Raila Odinga yesterday signalled a Supreme Court battle to determine the legality of the outcome of the presidential vote after he rejected the results that saw the declaration of Dr William Ruto as President-elect.

Mr Odinga said the results announced by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati were “null and void and must be quashed by a court of law”.

This sets the stage for a bruising fight at the top court that could take 21 days. The seven day countdown to file the petition began yesterday and the top judges will have 14 days to decide the case once filed.  Mr Chebukati declared Dr Ruto the winner with 7,176,141 (50.49 per cent), against Mr Odinga’s 6,942,930 (48.85 per cent).

“In our view, there is neither a legally and validly declared winner nor a President-elect. Mr Chebukati’s announcement purporting to announce a winner is a nullity. He acted with gross impunity and in total disregard of the constitution and our laws.

Call for calm

“He could have plunged our country into chaos had our supporters not exercised great restraint,” Mr Odinga said at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi Tuesday, calling for calm among his supporters.

The Azimio boss was flanked by his running mate, Ms Martha Karua, and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka. He addressed a room full of leaders elected under the coalition and who had been waiting for his statement since the declaration on Monday.

Mr Odinga pointed out that such “blatant acts of impunity” can be a threat to the security of the country.

“It is not up to us to decide whether Mr Chebukati has committed an offense. We leave that determination to the appropriate authorities. For the avoidance of doubt, I want to repeat that we totally and without reservations reject the presidential results announced yesterday by Mr Chebukati,” the former Prime Minister said.

Commended Azimio supporters

Mr Odinga also commended Azimio supporters for remaining calm and keeping the peace.

“I urge them to continue to do so. Let no one take the law into their own hands. We are pursuing constitutional and lawful channels and processes to invalidate Mr Chebukati’s illegal and unconstitutional pronouncement,” he said.

Noting that he was certain justice will prevail, Mr Odinga also lauded what he termed as the “heroism of the four IEBC commissioners”—the majority—“who stood up to the bullying and illegal conduct of Mr Chebukati.”

“We are proud of them and ask them not to fear anything. Kenyans are with them,” Mr Odinga said.

Dissenting commissioners

The four dissenting commissioners are Vice-Chairperson Juliana Cherera, alongside Francis Wanderi, Irene Masit and Justus Nyang’aya. Mr Odinga said the law does not vest in the chairperson the powers of a “dictator to rule the IEBC unilaterally.”

“The IEBC is structured as a democratic institution in which decisions must be taken either by consensus or by a vote of the majority. The chairperson and a tiny minority of commissioners have no legal authority to take weighty decisions and proclaim them as the rulings of the IEBC,” Mr Odinga said.

Mr Odinga unsuccessfully contested the 2013 elections while, in 2017, he succeeded in overturning President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy Dr Ruto’s win at the Supreme Court. Mr Odinga recalled how past disputed polls had plunged the country into chaos, warning that nobody should take the country down that path.

“We are painfully aware of past political biases by the IEBC that plunged this country into its darkest chapter. The terrible memories of the aftermath of the 2007 elections are still fresh in our minds. In 2017, the Supreme Court nullified the presidential election again because of the misconduct of the IEBC. What we saw yesterday was a travesty and a blatant disregard of the Constitution and the laws of Kenya by Mr Chebukati and a minority of IEBC Commissioners,” Mr Odinga said.

Role of IEBC chairperson

He said the law is clear on the role of the chairperson of the IEBC.

He noted that the law provides that, unless a unanimous decision is reached, a decision on any matter before the commission shall be made by a majority of the members present and voting.

“The Court of Appeal in the Maina Kiai case ... there is no doubt from the architecture of the laws we have considered ... ruled that the people of Kenya did not intend to vest or concentrate such sweeping and boundless powers in one individual, the chairperson of the appellant,” Mr Odinga said.

He was alluding to the Court of Appeal decision whose import altered the electoral agency’s conduct of presidential elections, especially after the judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Mr Odinga said: “That is why I, Azimio and the nation at large, were shocked yesterday [Monday] to learn that Mr Chebukati alone decided to pronounce himself on the supposed winner of the 2022 presidential elections. We understand that only Mr Chebukati had access to the tally of the presidential vote.”

Access to information

“He denied all the commissioners access to that information until he suddenly appeared before the commissioners in the late afternoon to present them with a fait accompli [a thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept it].”

Mr Odinga claimed that the commission had previously agreed on the tally of the presidential results “but barely two hours before his announcement, Mr Chebukati called a meeting of the IEBC and revealed to them the different results he was going to announce.”

The Azimio flag bearer is taking his fifth—and quite likely final—stab at the highest office in the land after four unsuccessful attempts in the 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017 General Elections.